“We have reduced the response time of the actionable social media complaints to 30 minutes. The next step is to weave in passengers’ feedback as one of the inputs in determining performance of the railway workforce”, says Railway Minister Prabhu, adding how the new analytics tool will help IR in figuring out problems both in terms of geography and function areas.
Ravinesh Kumar, executive director in charge of public grievances, adds that the new backend software could be operationalised in two months, and that it will give the top railway management a fair idea of the problem areas, frequency of complaints, time to resolve problems by respective railway zones and divisions and other similar issues. “The new analytics dashboard will show a sentiments-based word cloud segregated by problem types for various trains, stations, zones, divisions and the like,” says a technical person in Kumar’s social media team. Sentiments-based Twitter and Facebook comments appear in three colours: red, if a passenger talks about, say, a dirty toilet; green if she praises a clean platform; or grey if her comment is neutral.
Earlier this week, this writer reviewed a dummy analytics dashboard conceived by the IR with the help of private IT experts. The dashboard provides data on profiles of the complainants — organisation or individual; if individual, how influential that person is, depending on parameters such as total Twitter followers, frequency of Tweets and the like.
Will an influential complainant then get a more prompt response from the IR than say someone who has a fewer number of followers in social media? There is no clarity on that as yet.
According to the plans, however, about 100 premier users — the minister, two of his deputies, the railway board chairman and six of its members, 16 general managers (GMs) and 70 divisional railway managers (DRMs) — will be given access to a newly-created mobile app that can segregate the passengers’ feedback into complaints, short and long tern actionables, policy suggestions and the like. Further, a coloured bar diagram on the status of the complaints — open, awaiting response, pending, closed etc — and the average resolution time of each of the complaint will tell the efficiency of zones and divisions concerned.
ET Magazine has learnt that there has been a massive pressure on senior rail officers, some of whom are nearing their retirement age, to understand nuances of social media. All DRMs now have Twitter handles and are forced to check notifications all the time, as they are tagged when complaints are forwarded. As timings including arrival time and forwarding time of a complaint get recorded in the system, not being active on Twitter may prove costly for senior railway officials.
But what if a senior railway officer is on a site visit where there is no internet connectivity? A new feature in the backhand software now ensures that if a DRM, for example, does not act on a complaint in 15 minutes, she gets a reminder — not a tweet or an email but an plain vanilla SMS. ET Magazine contacted a few senior officials who are still figuring out what social media is all about, but no one wanted to come on record. The minister, for his part, who has 1.2 million Twitter followers, may be hoping they take a cue from him.
The sheer feedback via Twitter — 7,000 tweets a day as against 100 complaints through voice calls — is forcing the senior management to get onto social media. “I have learnt Twitter, and have some understanding of Facebook,” says a senior railway officer wishing not to be named.
Twitter has tied up not just with the ministry of railways, but with the ministry of external affairs and ministry of commerce to deliver real-time customer services. According to Twitter India’s data, it tracks about 350,000 citizen tweets a month, each tracking instance being related to delivery of government services.
But will Twitter’s monopoly as an interface between IR and its passengers be at risk soon, particularly when other social media networks are being roped in for rail passengers — 2.3 crore per day, according to railways data. “Twitter shall remain a topper in Railway’s feedback mechanism, owing to the uniqueness of Twitter platform which is based on the premise of transparency and accountability. No other medium offers this advantage,” says Raheel Khursheed, head of news and government partnerships, Twitter India. Khursheed adds that the ministry of home affairs and the ministry of power are already testing their Twitter Seva product at the beta stage, and talks for a Twitter tie-up are at an advanced stage with ministry of human resources, health ministry, Delhi Police, Mumbai Police, and state governments such as Karnataka, Punjab and UP. Perhaps what’s needed now is for more dyed-in-the-wool babus to take to the microblogging platform.